Please attribute the following statement to Peter Eliasberg, chief counsel and Manheim Family attorney for First Amendment Rights at the ACLU of Southern California, on the mistrial in the federal corruption case against former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca:
"The jury’s inability to reach a verdict in the trial of former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca in no way absolves the sheriff’s department or the board of supervisors of their dismissals of years of warnings from the ACLU that corrupt deputies engaged in a systemic pattern of physical abuse of inmates in the county jails. Although the jury did not find that Baca attempted to obstruct an FBI investigation into this widespread abuse, the facts underlying the scandal that led to the trial and the earlier conviction of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka demonstrate that the jail system is broken and must be held up to public scrutiny.
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California acknowledges the county has taken positive steps toward curbing excessive violence against inmates in the wake of a report by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence and the entry of the consent decree in the Rosas v. Baca lawsuit brought by the ACLU and its co-counsel, Paul Hastings. But those steps do not mitigate the need for greater reform.
Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions continue to plague the jails. Inmates with mental illnesses, many of whom belong not in jail but in community treatment, frequently do not receive proper care for their conditions. The deteriorating Men’s Central Jail County is little more than a modern-day medieval dungeon and must be closed.
We urge Sheriff Jim McDonnell and county officials to institute new policies that will ensure proper treatment for inmates with mental illness and provide that people are not kept in jail pretrial simply because they are too poor to make bail. Moving forward on these reforms will make the Los Angeles County jail system a model for the nation."